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Summary of Reference

Thompson, Ian

Developing Young Children’s Counting Skills

Bibliographic data:
Thompson, I. (1997). Developing young children’s counting skills. In I. Thompson (Ed.) Teaching and learning early number (pp.123-132).  Buckingham, UK : Open University Press.

English counting systems beyond ten do not follow as regular a pattern as Asian systems. For example, the English ‘eleven’ is not as intuitively regular as the form in many Asian languages ‘ten one’. Irregularities such as this may contribute to the slower development of counting skills in English speaking children.

Teachers need to be aware of the likely difficulties encountered by young children learning to count and to have techniques available to assist the children.

Each of the counting learning stages (recitation, enumeration, cardinality) has pitfalls for young children.

In recitation, children do not initially realise that the words they are reciting are discrete and are often not able to recite them in any other than the learnt order from the beginning. Exercises in which deliberate breaks in the word chain (one, two, three, five...), or deliberate word order errors (one, two, four, three...) are introduced, and similar exercises, have been found to develop a sense of the relationships between numbers.

Enumeration skills involve children in assigning a number to the physical object being counted. Those children who count by physically moving the objects they are counting have been found to make fewer errors than their peers who merely look at, point to, or touch the object. Exercises involving children in moving the objects being counted and counting objects in a variety of dimensions are necessary.

Cardinality is the ability to assign the correct quantity to the group being counted - without recounting the objects. Until children realise that the answer is not the process, does not involve recounting all the objects in other words, they can not be considered to be numerate. Exercises designed to have children thinking about the need to recount objects are necessary.